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New calculations solve an old problem with DNA

December 21, 2012 12:37 pm | News | Comments

It has been known since the 1970s that excessive salt causes DNA to reverse its twist, from a right-handed spiral to a left-handed one. The complexity of the DNA molecule has prevented a theoretical explanation which correctly predicts the amount of salt to do this. In a recent publication, however, researchers achieved new accuracy in the ability to measure energy differences between states of molecules, thus predicting which states will be observed.

PNNL recognized for transferring innovations to the marketplace

December 21, 2012 9:21 am | News | Comments

The Federal Laboratory Consortium announced this week that the Department of Energy national laboratory in Richland is receiving three 2013 Excellence in Technology Transfer awards in recognition for creating technologies or processes that can store large amounts of renewable energy until it's needed, fight cancer and detect explosives, and then moving the innovations to the marketplace.

New approach destroys disease-associated RNAs in cells

December 20, 2012 8:01 pm | News | Comments

Scientists from The Scripps Research Institute have developed a way to alter the function of RNA in living cells by designing molecules that recognize and disable RNA targets. As a proof of principle, the team designed a molecule that disabled the RNA causing myotonic dystrophy. This small molecule is cell-permeable, offering benefits over traditional methods of targeting RNAs for degradation.

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Scientists capture, preserve cancer cells circulating in blood

December 17, 2012 3:11 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Japan and California have built a nanoscale Velcro-like device that captures and releases tumor cells that have broken away from primary tumors and are circulating in the bloodstream. This new nanotechnology could be used for cancer diagnosis and give insight into the mechanisms of how cancer spreads throughout the body.

Toward a new model of the cell

December 17, 2012 9:58 am | News | Comments

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and colleagues have proposed a new method that creates an ontology, or a specification of all the major players in the cell and the relationships between them. This computational model of the cell is made from large networks of gene and protein interactions, and is created automatically from large datasets, helping researchers see potentially new biological components.

Controlled Success

December 14, 2012 11:42 am | by Paul Livingstone | Articles | Comments

From an early age, the 2012 Scientist of the Year knew that his knowledge of chemistry could make a difference in medicine. He’s still exploring just how much impact that can be.

Scientists use light to remotely trigger biochemical reactions

December 13, 2012 9:40 pm | News | Comments

Researchers at Rice University have recently  turned light into heat at the point of need, on the nanoscale, to trigger biochemical reactions remotely on demand. The method makes use of materials derived from unique microbes—thermophiles—that thrive at high temperatures but shut down at room temperature.

Team solves mystery associated with DNA repair

December 13, 2012 5:06 pm | by Diana Yates, University of Illinois | News | Comments

Every time a human or bacterial cell divides, specialized proteins help copy DNA strands, using the originals as templates. Whenever these proteins encounter a break, they repair proteins to step in and bridge the gap. In a new study, researchers report they have finally identified how one important repair protein, RecA, does it job.

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Huge DNA code of the Christmas tree being revealed

December 13, 2012 4:46 pm | by Malcolm Ritter, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

To millions of people, the Christmas tree is a cheerful sight. To scientists who decipher the DNA codes of plants and animals, it's a monster. Why? The conifer genome is dauntingly large, often six times or more the size of a human’s genome. The task of sequencing a conifer’s genes used to be far out of reach, but recent advances in technology cracked open one of genomics toughest nuts.

More than 3,000 epigenetic switches control daily liver cycles

December 12, 2012 11:11 am | News | Comments

Circadian rhythms affect our bodies not just on a global scale, but at the level of individual organs, and even genes. Scientists at the Salk Institute have recently determined the specific genetic switches that sync liver activity to the circadian cycle. Their finding gives further insight into the mechanisms behind health-threatening conditions such as high blood sugar and high cholesterol.

Carbon nanotubes lower nerve-damaging chloride in cells

December 11, 2012 8:10 am | News | Comments

A nanomaterial engineered by researchers at Duke University can help regulate chloride levels in nerve cells that contribute to chronic pain, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury. The findings were demonstrated in individual nerve cells as well as in the brains of mice and rats, and may have future applications in intracranial or spinal devices to help treat neural injuries.

Inspiration from a porcupine’s quills

December 10, 2012 5:46 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Anyone unfortunate enough to encounter a porcupine’s quills knows that once they go in, they are extremely difficult to remove. Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brigham and Women’s Hospital now hope to exploit the porcupine quill’s unique properties to develop new types of adhesives, needles and other medical devices.

Amgen to acquire deCODE Genetics

December 10, 2012 4:38 pm | News | Comments

Amgen and deCODE Genetics this week announced that Amgen will acquire deCODE Genetics, an innovator in human genetics headquartered in Reykjavik, Iceland, for a cash transaction valued at $415 million. deCODE Genetics will provide Amgen with an ability to identify and validate disease targets in human populations.

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Tapping citizen-scientists for a novel gut check

December 7, 2012 11:22 am | by Lauran Neergaard, AP Medical Writer | News | Comments

For a modest fee and a stool sample, the truly curious can join one or two unusual new citizen-science projects that represent attempts to find out more about our microbiomes—the colonies of microbes that make up a large part of our bodies’ functions, especially the digestive. Researchers with uBiome and the American Gut Project hope to enroll thousands in the projects.

Individual cells respond to electrical signal

December 6, 2012 1:09 pm | News | Comments

In an effort to aid the administration of medication at the cellular level, researchers in The Netherlands have pioneer a way to control or speed up the process of binding ligands, or antibodies, to diseased cells. This ability relies on a new method that uses supramolecules to electrically switch the behavior of individual cells.

DNA self-assembly enables “drag-and-drop” drug development

December 6, 2012 12:52 pm | News | Comments

Using a simple "drag-and-drop" computer interface and DNA self-assembly techniques, researchers with Parabon NanoLabs of Reston, Va.,have developed a new approach for drug development that could drastically reduce the time required to create and test medications. Parabon has partnered with Janssen Research & Development to use this technology to create and test the efficacy of a new prostate cancer drug.

Gene-altered mosquitoes could be used vs. dengue

December 6, 2012 9:26 am | by Jennifer Kay, Associated Press | News | Comments

Mosquito control officials in the Florida Keys are waiting for the federal government to sign off on an experiment that would release hundreds of thousands of genetically modified mosquitoes to reduce the risk of dengue fever in the tourist town of Key West. If approved by the Food and Drug Administration, it would be the first such experiment in the U.S. Some residents, however, are worried about the risks.

Hybrid scaffold holds promise for skin tissue engineering

December 6, 2012 9:06 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Japan have created a hybrid scaffold which promotes regeneration of skin in live animals while maintaining mechanical strength making it a promising material for future skin tissue engineering.

Multitasking plasmonic nanobubbles kill some cells, modify others

December 3, 2012 3:30 pm | by Mike Williams, Rice University | News | Comments

Researchers at Rice University have found a way to kill some diseased cells and treat others in the same sample at the same time. The process, which uses tunable plasmonic nanobubbles previously invented in the laboratory of Dmitri Lapotko, is activated by a pulse of laser light and leaves neighboring healthy cells untouched.

Glowing fish shed light on metabolism

December 3, 2012 11:48 am | News | Comments

Emerging from a panel of 2,400 medications and drug-like compounds tested in a tiny zebrafish, a compound has been pinpointed by researchers who say it regulates whole-body metabolism and appears to protect obese mice from signs of metabolic disorders. The discovery may help drug discovery efforts to help help the rising population of Americans adults at risk for diabetes and other metabolic disorders.

Electrically spun fabric offers dual defense against pregnancy, HIV

November 30, 2012 1:52 pm | News | Comments

A new form of contraception could take an unexpected shape: electrically spun cloth with nanometer-sized fibers. These fibers, designed by a University of Washington team, can dissolve and release drugs, providing a cheap and discreet platform for protecting against unintended pregnancy, as well as HIV infection.

Garbage bug may help lower the cost of biofuel

November 30, 2012 8:57 am | News | Comments

One reason that biofuels are expensive to make is that the organisms used to ferment the biomass cannot make effective use of hemicellulose, the next most abundant cell wall component after cellulose. However, a microbe found in the garbage dump of a canning plant in 1993 may hold the right enzymes for the job. Researchers are now working on isolating the gene cluster responsible for this ability.

Scanning innovation may improve personalized medicine

November 28, 2012 12:07 pm | News | Comments

New combinations of medical imaging technologies hold promise for improved early disease screening, cancer staging, therapeutic assessment, and other aspects of personalized medicine, according to a new Virginia Tech report. The integration of multiple major tomographic scanners into a single framework involves the fusion of many imaging modalities known as "omni-tomography”.

Study unlocks light-harvesting behavior of blue-green algae

November 27, 2012 11:28 am | News | Comments

An international team of biologists has identified both the enzyme and molecular mechanism critical for controlling a chameleon-like process that allows one of the world's most abundant ocean phytoplankton, once known as blue-green algae, to maximize light harvesting for photosynthesis. The group is now seeking a patent on technology based on the discovery.

Synthetic membrane channels built with DNA nanotechnology

November 21, 2012 9:13 am | News | Comments

In a shape inspired by a natural channel protein, the DNA-based membrane channel recently built by researchers in Michigan and Germany consists of a needle-like stem 42-nm long with an internal diameter of just 2 nm. The devices has been shown to function with lipid vesicles, and further experimentation shows the pores can act like voltage-controlled gates, just like the ion channels in living cells.

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